After over a decade of limping along with the same ancient Pentium 3 and 4 “servers”, I decided to finally throw some money at the problem. Some of these servers were actually laptops, and the best/most recent machine was a box I built for Mythtv…in 2004. 32-bit, PATA, oh my.

I picked up a Dell Poweredge R710 barebones (dual 870W power supplies, dual heatsinks, PERC 6/i, iDRAC enterprise, no RAM, no CPU) on Ebay then configured it to my liking with other Ebay or Amazon purchases: dual L5640’s, 48GB (6 x 8GB) RAM, H200 RAID card. I started with the LFF model, which supports 6 3.5″ drives in the front hotswap sleds. Since this will be a hyperconverged (computer and storage) host, these will house multi-terabyte HDD’s. More on that later. I can expand the RAM up to 12 (full speed) or 18 sticks if I need to.

Since my plan was to install Xenserver 7.0, and the H200 (with all 6 drives) will eventually be passed through to the NAS vm, I needed someplace to put Xenserver.  USB is out as Xenserver is a full Centos base, so I bought a 12mm optical disk drive adapter on Amazon and put an old 2.5″ SATA drive I had in it.  While the adapter gave the drive a nice secure home, more importantly it also adapted the SATA connector on a HDD to the “slimline” style the R710 ODD cable (Dell P/N GP703) came with. Interestingly the R710 features two SATA2 ports on the main board, but no spare power.  Dell does have a part number (Dell P/N GP700) for a splitter from the 4-pin square connector to Molex and SATA power, but I don’t have one of these. Neither the SATA chipset nor Xenserver natively support RAID, so one drive it will be. I don’t plan on making too many changes to the base Xenserver install….and will script any changes I do make.

First order of business after unboxing the “new” server was resetting the BIOS, iDRAC Enterprise, and PERC to factory defaults.  All three of these were holding configs that didn’t match how the server was now configured.  I used the jumper on the main board to accomplish the first.  I took a drive through the BIOS to turn the virtualization settings on, change power management to “os managed”, and demote PXE boot to last.

With the dedicated iDRAC connected to VLAN1 and set for DHCP, I rebooted and headed back upstairs to work from the couch with a beer and baseball on the plasma.  The trunk port I created on my switch for troubleshooting I connected to a Powerline adapter as my house doesn’t yet have network drops anywhere.  Pulling up the console KVM via iDRAC, I proceeded to boot into the lifecycle manager and update all firmware. All updates failed due to a too old version of the lifecycle manager or something, just great, so I ended up booting the SUU .iso and upgraded everything that way.  I powered everything off and began to rip the old PERC out and put an IT flashed H200 in its place. This card also requires SAS SFF-8087 cables with right-angle connectors on the backplane side, which I got from Ebay. I took the old card out of its dedicated slot and put the H200 in a normal PCI-E slot.

I used my last Cat5e cables to connect the 4 NICs to the 4 ports I previously setup as a LAGG. Eventually I’ll get around to replacing the hodge podge of cables with new color-matched patch cables.

With that out of the way I could now boot the Xenserver .iso via iDRAC and install to the 500GB SATA drive. An interesting note is that since i flashed the H200 to IT firmware without a BIOS, I can’t boot from any drive in the front 6 bays.  Since it will connect purely storage drives, this is fine with me.

While the R710 is louder than I expected (even after settling down), it is not obnoxious and its home is in the same basement utility/storage room with the water heater and HVAC.  Power supply 2 I have connected but pulled out just a bit from the chassis, so it is not recognized. At idle, the iDRAC indicates it consuming 140 watts of electricity, ~22 Celsius, and fans at 3600rpm.